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Memories of Aunt Louise, Family and the Good Ole Days

Posted: July 30, 2010 - 21:54 CT

Left to right: Aunt Louise, Aunt
Claudene, Mom.  Click on any
picture for a larger version.

A couple of weeks ago, Aunt Louise (my mom’s older sister) left this temporary life to go to her permanent home in heaven.  I had not seen her in a while, so many of my memories are somewhat old and faded.  Yet, because of her great love for her family, she always kept up with everyone else.  Not a single birthday, graduation or any other special event would pass without us receiving a card at the very least.  To a young man on a very hectic schedule, these cards and occasional calls brought a certain sense of normality, like an anchor in a turbulent sea.  Unfortunately, she was an anchor that I all too often took for granted.

Aunt Louise and my mother, along with five other siblings, grew up in a small farm house in a rural area of Northeast Texas.  As a kid, I had a secret hiding place back in one of the pine groves.  I also loved to play around the old barn, then one day Mom told me that this “old barn” was the home in which they were actually raised.  It was only used as a barn after my grandparents built another house on the land to accommodate their growing family.  This other farm house later became the family gathering place for Christmas and other special occasions.

Louise and my mom were typical sisters, always arguing among themselves but fiercely loyal to each other.  During family gatherings, my mom and dad would sometimes get into petty (mostly good natured) arguments, and Louise would almost always take my dad’s side.  I suspected she did this just to agitate mom, and it usually worked.  You could tell my mom was perturbed when she started calling her “Norma Louise”.  Most of the family had nicknames for each other.  We called my mother “Nancy” (which she hated), but Louise always called her Nonette (her first name was Lillian, but I never heard anyone use it).  In fact, Louise insisted on referring to all of us by our proper names.

Brothers & sisters: Larry, Magel,
Louise, Claudene, Earl, Mom

I think the reason that Mom and Aunt Louise sometimes quarreled (which never lasted very long and they laughed about it later) is that they were so much alike.  They both loved to sew, and one of my mother’s most cherished possessions was a bowl and pitcher that Louise handmade in 1978 after taking a pottery class.  When Mom died about ten years ago, this was the first thing my wife took home after her funeral.  They both considered family to be very important and insisted we all maintain a close relationship.  I moved away right after high school and, after Mom’s death, I began losing touch with many relatives, particularly those from my dad’s side.  When Mom was still alive however, even though Louise lived out in West Texas, her and Mom were extremely close and spoke frequently, so between the two of them, I always knew everything that was happening in the family

I regret that I didn’t get to see Aunt Louise the past few years.  I had thought about visiting many times, but something always seemed to come up, and I always thought there would be more time.  After hearing that her health had taken a turn for the worse, my brothers, along with her brother Magel and his wife Betty, went to see her, but our son was home from the marines and was due to leave the following week for Afghanistan so I missed the trip.

The kids: Edna, Royce, Terri, Kelly,
Donna, Ronnie, Ryan

Yet, even on the sad occasion of Aunt Louise’s death, it was still reassuring and uplifting to see many members of my mom’s family again, and to hear stories from the latter part of Louise’s life that I missed.  The first face I saw upon arriving was Larry, my mom’s youngest brother.  His son was on the sea and I didn’t even recognize his daughter Tiffany.  I also saw Magel and Betty, Claudene and Jim (barely recognized their daughter Donna and her family), and my two brothers (met Ronnie’s new wife Misty for the first time).  There were also many new kiddos running around that had been added to the family in the past several years.  I was particularly glad to see Norma, my mom’s sister-in-law.  Her husband Earl (Mom’s brother) had died in the past year, but I was too sick to attend, so I missed everyone again.  One of my fondest memories from Jr High is the week I spent at their ranch one summer.  Earl let me help train a horse that was a little rough around the edges, so I was sore for a few weeks but had a great time.  Finally, I got to see Louise’s two daughters, Edna (the only other member of the family with as many pets as us) and Kelly, and of course, Kelly’s daughters Kasey and Kerby (all with a “K” as Kelly emphasizes).

This was also the first time that I’ve ever had the honor of being selected as a pallbearer.  I like to think that this is due to most of my best friends still being alive, but more than likely, it is a testimony to the scarcity of the number of close friends that I have.  True to form however, I had visitors from Florida, so I had to return to Dallas before the funeral.  Therefore, I said so long, along with the usual “let’s get together soon” (typically at the next wedding or funeral), and left for home.

With the outlaws: Betty, Larry, Magel,
Louise, Claudene, Norma, Earl, Mom,
Jim, Dad

Now, as things begin to return to what can pass for relatively normal, and I’ve had a chance to consider the events of the past few weeks, I think it’s quite common for a believer, after the death of a loved one, to reflect upon our eternal life in heaven.  We know that God’s main purpose in saving someone is to confirm him or her to the image of His Son, with our eternal salvation being a secondary benefit.  Yet, what a wonderful thought that we’ll be together forever before the Coram Dei (face of God).  After Mom left this earth, I had many well wishers express sympathy that I had “lost my mother”.  While I greatly appreciated their thoughts, the truth was (and still is) that Mom is not lost.  I know exactly where she is, and one day, I’m going to join her again

The Scriptures indicate that we’ll retain our personalities (perfected without the sin nature) and some memories in heaven such that we will recognize each other.  While we were mourning Aunt Louise (which is normal and Biblical to do), she was enjoying a reunion with her granddaughter Kloey (Kelly’s daughter who was killed years ago in a tragic accident).  She probably had also run across my mother, perhaps kidding about how shocked each one was to see the other there.  Maybe they are sharing a joke about Claudene, or catching up on the family additions.  They could even be laughing about the time Larry let go with both barrels of a cork gun as my grandma bent over to retrieve presents from under the Christmas tree (Mom and Louise scolded everyone for laughing while trying to control their own laughter)

Whatever they are doing at the moment, we know that they are in a place where there are no more tears, sickness, pain or death.  It is a place where time is not a factor, a place of second chances where we’ll have our priorities in order and no longer be too busy to miss out on the things that really matter… a place of no regrets.   It is a place of eternal joy, peace and security, far beyond what our minds can conceive.  Finally, it is a place where Mom and Aunt Louise will always agree with each other.

There's a land beyond the river,
That we call the sweet forever,
And we only reach that shore by faith's decree;
One by one we'll gain the portals,
There to dwell with the immortals,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.

We shall know no sin or sorrow,
In that haven of tomorrow,
When our barque shall sail beyond the silver sea;
We shall only know the blessing
Of our Father's sweet caressing,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.

When our days shall know their number,
And in death we sweetly slumber,
When the King commands the spirit to be free;
Nevermore with anguish laden,
We shall reach that lovely Eden,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.

Daniel de Marbelle, 1887

"I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (Jn 11:25-26)


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